Vince leads Hamphire to fifth straight Finals Day
Hampshire 198 for 5 (Vince 93*) beat Nottinghamshire 197 for 2 (Wessels 62*, Patel 53*) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Hampshire became the first county side to qualify for five successive T20 Finals Days following a five-wicket victory in the quarter-final of the NatWest Blast over Nottinghamshire.
Hampshire were indebted to their captain, James Vince, for helping them chase down a daunting target of 198. Vince, promoted to the captaincy for this competition despite his relative youth (he is 23), made an unbeaten 93 - a career-best score in this format - to help his side reach their target with an over to spare. It was the third highest successful run-chase in the competition this season.
If Vince's batting was worthy of victory - his driving through the off side was especially eye-catching - Nottinghamshire will know that they were, to a large extent, the architects of their own downfall.
Not only was Vince badly missed on 20 - Alex Hales failing to take a sharp but distinctly catchable chance at cover off the bowling of Ajmal Shahzad - but the hosts also contributed 14 extras (eight no-balls, four byes and a wide) and will know they bowled well below their potential.
Harry Gurney, who now carries the expectations of an England bowler, struggled to hit the correct lengths - Vince thrashed four boundaries in his first over as Gurney overpitched and then over-compensated with a short slower ball - while a preponderance of full tosses throughout the innings rendered it almost impossible for Nottinghamshire captain, James Taylor, to set a field.
It is Notts' first loss in white ball cricket in 10 matches, stretching back to June 13, but a result that will do nothing to shed their burgeoning reputation as chokers. It was their fourth successive home quarter-final defeat in the competition.
Nottinghamshire were strong favourites at the halfway stage of the game. Making first use of an excellent T20 surface - it was hard to believe this was next pitch on from the strip deemed "poor" by the ICC after the England v India Test - they were powered to an excellent total through ever more impressive half-centuries from Hales, Riki Wessels and Samit Patel.
If Wessels played some outstanding strokes - one slow-sweep for six off Kyle Abbott was quite exceptional - it was Patel who most caught the eye. Quick on his feet and blessed with strong wrists, he gave himself room to thrash the bowlers off their lengths and then punished the resulting full or short balls that followed. His half-century occupied only 23 balls and contained three sixes and four fours.
While Hampshire's bowling was not at its best - Kyle Abbott was particularly ragged, but Danny Briggs will not reflect with great joy on this performance, either - they were grateful for four frugal overs from the gentle-looking Will Smith. Bowling what might generously be described as off-breaks, Smith mixed-up his pace cleverly but most of all gave the batsmen little room in delivering the most economical figures of the day.
Hampshire started well in reply. But when Michael Carberry ran past Patel's first delivery and then Shahzad claimed two wickets in two balls it seemed Hampshire would have too much to do. The first delivery, a bouncer, took the glove of Glenn Maxwell as he attempted to hook, while the next, a well-disguised slower ball out of the back of his hand, completely deceived Jimmy Adams who was lured into a drive that he spooned to cover.
Instead Vince thrashed four sixes in seven balls - the first three pulled off Patel, the fourth slogged over square leg off a Steven Mullaney no-ball - to put his side ahead of the run-rate and then calmly picked off the full tosses as they came. He rarely had to wait for long.
He added 81 in just 6.4 overs with Sean Ervine with Patel squandering a chance to end the stand early by putting down a tough chance on the boundary when Ervine had 11. While Patel originally seemed to have held on to the ball, he was obliged to throw it to the ground as he staggered to avoid stepping over the boundary rope and conceding six. Ervine ran two instead and went on to take Hampshire to within 20 of victory.
While four byes off the penultimate ball ended any chance Vince had of reaching an individual century, he still rated the finest innings as one of the finest of his career.
"Given the situation - a high chase in a quarter-final - that is up there with one of my best innings," he said. "At the halfway stage, chasing 200, it looked as if it was going to be tough."
Hampshire, who play Lancashire in the semi-finals and who have won the competition twice before in 2010 and 2012, will be without Maxwell and probably Abbott too, due to international commitments (there is a slim chance Abbott may be allowed to return) though Owais Shah will be back from Caribbean Premier League duty.
It will be little consolation to Nottinghamshire that they were part of a highly enjoyable game of T20 in front of a large and appreciate crowd. 11,237 witnessed a match full of big hitting, some athletic fielding and some high-profile blunders. In the end, though, Hampshire simply made fewer mistakes.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo